The space around the Parthenon was replete with sacred objects and votive offerings. In the area between the temple of Athena and the Erechtheion, Pausanias reported the small shrine of the seed-bearing Earth where there was a statue of this minor divinity appealing to Zeus for rain. In grid Attica, drought was always one of its inhabitants’ main problems. Today we can see in the place of this sanctuary a square base with traces of the original inscription.
Northeast of the entrance to the Parthenon, again on the Erechtheion side, there was a large altar together with a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus Polieas whose cult was very ancient, as shown by part of a known feast. Every June, after a ritual, the Bouphonia was celebrated here, i.e. a blood sacrifice of an ox. First, an offering was made to the god of fruits from the previous year’s harvest, which were placed on the altar. Then the animal was brought in, one that had to have pulled a plough for a while, and then was allowed to roam free. As was natural, the ox ate of the sacred fruit, a sacrilegious act, for which a priest slaughtered it with an axe. Immediately afterward, he abandoned the murderous weapon and disappeared. The blood of the ox which was spilled also constituted a sacrilege on the sacred site, and for this reason the worshippers punished the axe, throwing it from the walls, since the actual perpetrator of the deed could not be found anywhere. In this way the required catharsis was achieved, the purpose of which was to bring good luck to the city.
Somewhere in the same vicinity must have been the bronze statues of Apollo and Artemis described by Pausanias. Here Apollo had the attribute “Parnopios” i.e. he who destroyed locusts. It would appear that at least once a plague of locusts threatened the harvest, and the god was invoked by this title for assistance. Artemis had the same name as a local divinity from Asia Minor, from a city near Priene. Regarding the marble statue of seated Athena, this has been identified as the archaic statue in the Museum. Near the south side of the entrance to the Parthenon must have been the bronze replicas of the poet Anakreon and the politicians Xanthippus and Pericles, father and son. Today nothing remains of these, apart from a broken pedestal and an inscription bearing the name of Cresilas, a well-known 5th century sculptor who worked with Phidias and had created the statue of Pericles. Various copies exist of this bust of Pericles, in which the dynamic politician is always depicted wearing a helmet, perhaps to hide some imperfection in the shape of his skull.
Near the south wall, overlooking the Theatre of Dionysus, there were other bronze statues. A four-fold row of them constituted a votive offering by Attalus of Pergamum, each about one metre high; they represented gods, giants, Amazons and local heroes. All these were presented as taking active part in the mythological but also historical issues so loved by the ancients, but none have survived down to our days in their initial form. On the same side we can see a huge drum which seems to have been one of the guides for carving the Parthenon columns.
Approaching the edge of the wall, one has a beautiful view overlooking the theatre of Dionysus. In its orchestra, which has seen so much down through the ages, one of the greatest offerings of Greece to the civilisation of all ages evolved and triumphed: a lyric discourse!
To move around the city it would be a good idea to use Athens Metro.